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Assessment increase revisited by CPUD board

During the Chester Public Utility District board meeting Sept. 18, chairman Wes Scott discussed another round of outreach to provide greater clarity to district residents on the need to raise assessment fees to cover the deficit in fire and ambulance services.

SCI Consulting Group, a public financing consulting firm that focuses on revenue enhancement services for public agencies through special assessment levies, was awarded a contract by CPUD to send out a questionnaire earlier in the year to gauge public support for an increase.

“As most of you know we had a consultant firm come in to put a proposal together for an increase in our property assessments” to support the fire department, Scott reminded the directors, “which was not well-received by the community, so we decided as a board to drop it at that time.”

Nevertheless, an increase in funding remained vital to fire department operations, said Scott, “and so I was prompted to draft a letter which was also edited by [Fire Chief] Joe Waterman and [District Manager] Frank Motzkus for possible board approval.” Scott then presented copies to board members for their review and input.

“What we’re saying in this letter is letting residents know that we understand a proposed fee increase is not popular, but what are you comfortable with? … We’re asking for some feedback from the community so we can get a feel of what people consider acceptable,” with regards to an increase.

After his opening statement, Scott asked for comments or questions from board members.

An individual from the audience told the board that he has heard from his neighbors that they don’t believe Chester Fire is doing enough to keep costs down.

Continuing, he made the point that in other fire districts throughout Plumas County, average household incomes vary widely, which make fee increases harder for some more than for others.

Waterman interjected to say that there is a “differential in the level of service being provided” from different districts. “That has to be in the equation, too,” he said.

Scott resumed the discussion by reiterating that the idea is to “take the temperature of the community” by simply asking people to “give their opinion.”

He said that he would need the directors to sign off on the letter once it was finalized.

The current budget deficit for fire and ambulance service for 2018 is about $500,000, according to CPUD board clerk Cheryl Johnson.

The amount of any proposed increase was to be left undecided until the board had more feedback from residents that would also include future public meetings.

A motion was made by board member Steve Trotter to send out the letters describing the needs of the fire district, which was passed in a quorum by a vote of three ayes and one abstention.

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